When, in the finale of Always on My Mind, Willie Nelson claims he “wasn’t tryin’,” he seems to be summing up his attitude toward this whole sorry album. Let’s hope so anyway, because almost nothing works here. Nelson’s hammy performances and Chips Moman’s hothouse production somehow manage to inflate understatement to the point of pomposity while letting all of the air out of what might have been genuinely moving and dramatic. The band plays competently but carelessly, often sailing off in spectacularly inappropriate directions, which is only natural considering the strangeness of the song selection.
You haven’t lived until you’ve heard Nelson stumble through Paul Simon’s “Bridge over Troubled Water.” Or how about Procol Harum’s classic “A Whiter Shade of Pale,” in which the star is joined by Waylon Jennings? Doing such material isn’t daring, it’s dumb. But then, so are most of this album’s C&W tunes. What’s even worse is that Willie Nelson is now beginning to sound like some unctuous country DJ: he’s startlingly insincere, faking emotions instead of feeling them. Always on My Mind is strictly paint-by-numbers product.